The Voice of Columbia River High School


Jordan Ryan is a leader on the basketball court and a superb talent as a play-by-play broadcaster

VANCOUVER — Her voice is booming and she exudes confidence — a leader on the basketball court for the Columbia River Chieftains. 

Her voice is booming and she exudes confidence — an award-winning broadcaster for her school and her school district.

Jordan Ryan brought a love of sports to broadcasting — a player and a play-by-play talent, representing Columbia River High School. Photo by Mike Schultz
Jordan Ryan brought a love of sports to broadcasting — a player and a play-by-play talent, representing Columbia River High School. Photo by Mike Schultz

These days, she is excelling at both pretty much at the same time.

Just last week, she played a game on a Tuesday, helping the Chieftains to a Class 2A Greater St. Helens League victory. On Wednesday, she went to practice after school, then was the play-by-play talent for the boys basketball games. 

Sometimes she works for Vancouver Public Schools. Other times, she is the voice of Columbia River Sports. Both air high school games live on cable and stream over the internet. 

“I was not very good, but I really loved it regardless of how many times I messed up,” Ryan said, looking back on her debut broadcast her sophomore year, during football season. “It was just so much fun. There was just so much energy. I loved that.”

She has to be considered a seasoned veteran by now, at least as a student broadcaster.

“I heard Jordan on a CR Sports broadcast and was amazed to learn she was a student,” said Nick Voll, the TV production supervisor for VPS. “Usually students have not found their voice yet when they do play-by-play. Jordan was confident, articulate, and knowledgeable.”

The VPS broadcasts, Voll said, typically have adults in the speaking roles. 

“I asked her to help on our district-wide broadcasts, not only to get her experience but also because she made our shows better. She is always prepared and eager to improve. 

“Our industry needs more Jordans.”

Jordan Ryan, a 6-foot senior, is hoping to help Columbia River to a great season. She leads the team in points, rebounds, and assists. Photo by Mike Schultz
Jordan Ryan, a 6-foot senior, is hoping to help Columbia River to a great season. She leads the team in points, rebounds, and assists. Photo by Mike Schultz

Jordan Ryan is like a lot of people in the business — self critical.

“The first time I heard myself, ‘Is that what I sound like? Do I sound like that?’” she recalled.

Yes, that’s her. She has a distinct voice, too. It is deeper than most of her peers. She is OK with that now. 

“I don’t have to sound like a Disney princess to announce,” she said.

In fact, Ryan looks up to Doris Burke of ESPN and ABC fame. Burke has a voice all of her own, too.

“When you hear her, you know it’s her,” Ryan said. “She knows what she’s talking about.”

Ryan recently took advantage of an opportunity to job-shadow Brooke Olzendam, the courtside reporter for the Portland Trail Blazers. Ryan said she was impressed to see all of the pre-game work, and how Olzendam made it all seem so effortless on air. 

Maybe one day that could be Ryan working an NBA beat.

Then again, she might head in another direction. She has written screenplays for two student-produced short films, with another on the way.

“My favorite part is watching it come together,” she said, noting the differences between what she writes on a page, the director’s vision, and the editor’s cuts. 

A broadcast is full of teamwork, too. And a live broadcast can have its moments of anxiety.

Last basketball season, Ryan was set to do play-by-play with a partner to be the game analyst.  She found out near the last minute that her partner could not be there that night. Jordan Ryan asked younger brother David Ryan to fill in.

A quality broadcaster gets to a game early to prepare, so she is ready for the action. For Jordan Ryan, that means going to school at Columbia River, going to basketball practice, then rushing home and back to the school in time for her television gig. Photo by Mike Schultz
A quality broadcaster gets to a game early to prepare, so she is ready for the action. For Jordan Ryan, that means going to school at Columbia River, going to basketball practice, then rushing home and back to the school in time for her television gig. Photo by Mike Schultz

That particular broadcast worked out so well that it was entered into a contest. It would win a student emmy for the Northwest and was nominated for a national award.

David Ryan was a little hesitant at first.

“I said, ‘David, you gotta announce with me. I’ll lead you through it,’” Jordan Ryan recalled. “He ends up with an Emmy.”

Ryan’s love for journalism started at an early age. She used to write a newspaper for her home, just events in her family’s life, back when she was in the third grade.

“It was cute,” she said. “I tried to get my family to pay me for it, but they would never pay me.”

Then in high school, the broadcasting opportunity materialized.

By that time, she had found a love for sports, particularly basketball. LeBron James had become her favorite player. She had played pick-up games with the guys.  

“I was collecting basketball cards. I was doing the whole thing,” Ryan said. “Basketball, football, and baseball.”

She has now grown to her 6-foot frame and handles the ball like a guard. On the court for the Chieftains, she is constant energy. She leads the team in scoring, rebounds, and assists. 

The Chieftains started the season 9-2, including 3-0 in the 2A Greater St. Helens League.

“I’d like to beat (defending state champion) Washougal, but the goal is just to win games,” Ryan said. “I think we are a very strong team this year. Everybody is on the same page. We all know what we have to do and how we have to play to keep ourselves high in league. 

“I don’t necessarily think we are a better team than Washougal as of right now, but I think we can compete with them.”

Ryan expects to play college basketball, too. She will decide at a later date. 

Jordan Ryan of Columbia River hopes to play college basketball. Wherever she goes, that program will get an athlete who never seems to stop pushing herself. Photo by Mike Schultz
Jordan Ryan of Columbia River hopes to play college basketball. Wherever she goes, that program will get an athlete who never seems to stop pushing herself. Photo by Mike Schultz

In her final high school season, she just appreciates how her love for sports, for watching sports, has led to a new opportunity beyond just playing the game.

Watching the NBA, she said, is what led her to want to try broadcasting. 

Continuing on that path could give her a chance to stay in the game. An injury her freshman year and then another at the end of her junior year made her realize that her playing career will not last forever. Her love for the game will endure, though.

“Basketball has always been … my driving force. It was eat, sleep basketball. I was pretty happy with that,” Ryan said.
After her first injury, she figured she needed something else, too. She found film. She found broadcasting.

“Basketball, at this point, is my first love and it’s something I’ll always love,” she said “Basketball is a piece of me. When I tap into it, I’m a different person. Kind of fun to be overaggressive and a little animated sometimes. Basketball is an escape. It’s a release. It’s fun.”

Jordan Ryan says a prayer before every game. She said she thanks God for the opportunity to play the game. 

She knows God is listening.

Jordan Ryan, after all, knows how to use her voice.

About The Author

Paul Valencia joins ClarkCountyToday.com after more than two decades of newspaper experience. He became the face of high school sports coverage in Clark County during his 17 years at The Columbian. Before moving to Vancouver, Paul worked at Oregon daily newspapers in Pendleton, Roseburg, and Salem. A graduate of David Douglas High School in Portland, Paul enlisted in the U.S. Army, serving three years as a soldier/journalist. He and his wife Jenny recently celebrated their 20th anniversary. They have a son who has a passion for karate and Minecraft. Paul’s hobbies include: Watching the Raiders play football, reading about the Raiders playing football, and waiting to watch and read about the Raiders playing football.

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